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BusinessWire's Smellie wins journalism award for analysis of banking tax cases

Tuesday 4th May 2010

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Pattrick Smellie, co-owner of the New Zealand-based news service BusinessWire, has won the inaugural Openside Accounting Journalism Awards for his analysis of last year’s landmark banking tax cases.

The series of reports “proved once again” that Smellie “knows his stuff thoroughly,” judges Patricia Herbert and Gordon McBride said in making the announcement. He followed the tax case closely and “was able to analyse and report on its developments and the conclusion in a way few if any other journalists did.”

Openside Accounting launched the awards to raise awareness of accounting issues.

Foreign-owned New Zealand banks ended up paying some $2.2 billion in back taxes and accrued interest on the Inland Revenue Department’s assessments relating to cross-border structured finance transactions. The arrangements were of a kind widely used by foreign-owned New Zealand banks in the late 1990's and early 2000's to reduce their local tax liability.

The landmark rulings, which the banks chose not to appeal, established a new benchmark for what constitutes corporate tax avoidance. ANZ, National Bank, BNZ, Westpac, Rabobank, and Deutsche Bank were all able to avoid tax using structures they believed had been cleared by the Inland Revenue Department.

The payments gave the government accounts an unexpected fillip as it contemplated the impact of soaring debt levels and a decline in tax revenue.

BusinessWire is a service provided by Wellington-based Content Ltd, which provides white-label content to online, print and broadcast media.

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